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Home > Books & Journals > Journal Abstracts Last Updated: 14:23 03/09/2007
Journal Abstracts #259: December 4, 2006

Asian Business & Management

Journal Name: Asian Business & Management: December 2006, Volume 5, Number 4


Japanese Personnel Management and Flexibility Today (pp453–468)
Kenichi Kuroda (School of Business Administrations, Meiji University, 1-1 Kanda-surugadai, Chiyoda, Tokyo 101-8301, Japan)

In 1995, the Japanese Employers Association (JEA) presented its new policy for personnel and labour management, emphasizing the changes in Japanese personnel and labour management. A characteristic of the JEA's new policy was the increasing flexibility (flexibilization) of employment, wages, promotion and labour–management relations across all fields of business. The need for flexibilization is attributed to progress in information technology, globalization and fundamental changes in employment and work. In response to these drastic changes, the JEA proposed 'new Japanese management', involving such things as an increase in types of contract, promotion, etc., based on performance, variable working hours and flexitime. These proposals have not been completely realized, but movement towards flexibilization in personnel and labour management has occurred. However, over the same period, various serious problems have developed in the Japanese economy, including higher unemployment and resultant destabilization in employment, and loss of the will to work among younger people. These problems compound the difficulty of introducing a performance-based employment system, and raise the need for a different programme of reform, one that does not consist solely of placing more burdens on the workforce.

Keywords: flexibilization, 'ability-based' approach, 'performance-based' approach, atypical employment, pay for performance

Current Japanese Employment Practices and Industrial Relations: The Transformation of Permanent Employment and Seniority-Based Wage System (pp469–485)
Yonosuke Ogoshi (Faculty of Economics, Kokugakuin University, 4-10-28 Higashi Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-7440, Japan)

After the mid-1990s, Japanese economy experienced a switch in its global development framework and decisive change came about in its system of 'permanent employment' and seniority-based wages. Faced with global mega-competition, managers launched restructuring initiatives that included performance-oriented compensation. Such restructuring cause considerable job losses among middle-aged workers, and sometimes created atypical employees instead of regular staff members. Owing to the new performance orientation, many regular workers suffered stressful working conditions and increased working hours, which led to mental heath problems in some cases. The Japanese results-oriented system allows management to determine individual wages according to objectives met and assessed merit, a one-sided personnel evaluation that diminishes the role of collective bargaining, not just in wage negotiation but in terms of overall democracy in labour. Although Japanese big enterprise unions are apt to look positively towards a company's benefit, recently managements have been keen to determine working conditions not by collective bargaining but by labour-management committees. Moreover, the growing numbers of atypical workers, detached from job security, living wages and union eligibility, decrease union organization rate, further reducing the social position of unions. These are elements indicative of a crisis in labour democracy that demands prompt attention.

Keywords: permanent employment, a typical workers, results-oriented wage system, Japan-style Americanization, labour-management committees, business reorganization

Toyota Production Systems: The 'Toyota Way' and Labour–Management Relations (pp487-506)
Masaki Saruta (Faculty of Management, Chukyo University, 101-2 Yagoto Honmachi, Showa-ku, Nagoya, Aichi-ken 466-8666, Japan)

The Toyota production system (TPS) is spreading worldwide. This paper looks into the TPS and the associated transfer of the so-called 'Toyota Way' from a perspective of current and traditional human resource management (HRM) and labour–management relations within Toyota in Japan. Toyota considers that the foundation for competitive strength is ensuring that every employee understands and accepts the Toyota Way, and that it is necessary to expend much effort towards this end. For this purpose, Toyota has established a comprehensive in-house system of education and training, covering all aspects of labour–management relations and HRM. However, the Toyota Way's own characteristics exacerbate difficulties of transferral to US and European companies. By evaluating Toyota's motivational approach to management and training, and its labour–management relations, this paper elucidates the 'Toyota Way' underpinning the TPS. The three crucial aspects to Toyota's management are: (i) financial stimulation; (ii) management of personnel requirements; and (iii) labour management on the basis of behavioural science. A further important aspect of Toyota managerial development is the ad hoc training of key technical personnel. Toyota's 'mutual trust and mutual responsibility' approach to labour–management relations are also discussed.

Keywords: Toyota production systems, human resource management, industrial relations, Toyota Way, incentives, organizational training

Japanese Production Management and Improvements in Standard Operations: Taylorism, Corrected Taylorism, or Otherwise? (pp507-527)
Yutaka Tamura (School of Business Administration, Tohogakuen University, 3-11, Heiwagaoka, Meito-Ku, Nagoya 465-8515, Japan)

What is behind the high level of quality control in Japanese manufacturing companies? This paper looks at the methods used to control standard operations in Japanese companies, with close attention to standard operating procedures and other formal documents involved on the mass-production shopfloor. Two points emerge about Japanese manufacturing companies - firstly, operational groups at shopfloor level have the authority to rewrite standard operating procedures, and secondly, standard operations (centred on the operational group) are managed on the basis of a clear separation of roles at shopfloor level. This role division leads to continual changes in standard operations, a factor not found in Chinese or US companies, where managerial practices are based on orthodox Taylorism. Japanese companies have thus modified the shopfloor relationships based on the European and American Taylorist concept of 'separation of conception and execution'. Nevertheless, the modifications are only partial, and firm control of standard operations is made possible by retention of managerial authority at the team leader level. Therefore, the key to transferring the Japanese managerial approach is educating, training and encouraging engineers who can resolve problems at team leader level and within the manufacturing process.

Keywords: standardization, corrected Taylorism, kaizen, division of tasks, manufacturing engineering

Measures to Improve Workforce Efficiency in Japanese Small and Medium-sized Businesses and their Effectiveness (pp529-558)
Toshikazu Nagayama (Department of Business Administration, Nihon University, 5-2-1 Kinuta, Setagaya-ku, 157-8570 Tokyo, Japan)

From the 1990s, Japan developed a severe economic malaise affecting many of its large companies, and an important question hung over the feasibility of their recovery. Resultant processes such as overseas expansion, restructuring, revised contractual systems, and outsourcing hit dealt severe blows to small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) hard. However, as SMEs were already in existence, and developed an ability to optimize their use of their workforce, they can be said to have fared better than other parts of the economy. In manufacturing, transport, commerce, and services, managerial approaches in SMEs have ameliorated an impending crisis and developed new strengths in technical areas, often by re-employing workers and resources cast off in the restructuring processes of large companies. Thus, by means such as effectively using flexible labour, applying a range of options in contracts and modes of employment, developing new products, introducing new techniques alongside existing ones and outsourcing, SMEs have emerged as distinctive entities in their own right, even alongside large companies.

Keywords: Japanese-style management, SMEs, restructuring, production flexibility, on-the-job training, diversification of employment

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